science + technology news

How Many Variables Can Humans Process?

March 9, 2005

People cannot process more than four variables at a time, new research shows.

Recognizing these human limitations can make a difference when designing high-stress work environments — such as air-traffic control centers — where employees must keep in mind several variables all at once.

American Psychological Society news release

Nanotubes boost molecular devices

March 9, 2005

Researchers from Stanford University have constructed an extremely small transistor from a pair of single-walled carbon nanotubes and organic molecules.

The researchers cut metallic nanotubes to form electrodes, then deposited one of two organic materials to form a semiconducting channel between the electrodes. It could be used in practical applications in two to five years.

Laughing helps arteries and boosts blood flow

March 8, 2005

Laughing appears to be almost as beneficial as a workout in boosting the health of blood vessels, a new study suggests.

Results of the study, based on ultrasound measurements of blood flow and dilation in the brachial artery in the arm, suggest that laughter could help keep the lining of the arteries healthy and thus reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Microsoft Notebook: Intelligent software aims to give users peace of mind

March 8, 2005

Microsoft Research’s Adaptive Systems and Interaction group is working on software that senses the world around it and learns from experience to adjust to situations and reason in real time.

Smarter robots of tomorrow

March 8, 2005

NASA Ames scientists are advancing the technology of remote exploration.

The K9 rover is a robot similar to the Mars rovers, but that can perform tasks 10 times faster and can figure out how to do some tasks. Snakebot, which mimics the movements of a snake, would be able to probe even crevices and small caves on another planet.

DNA Testing Goes DIY

March 8, 2005

An increasing number of online startups are marketing genetic tests that claim to show predisposition to various maladies.

With Terror in Mind, a Formulaic Way to Parse Sentences

March 7, 2005

With CIA backing, Attensity has developed a method to parse electronic documents almost instantly and diagram all of the sentences inside, helping turn chatter into information that is relevant and usable.

The Bleeding Edge of Computing

March 7, 2005

Tomorrow’s computing landscape may include trinary rather than binary coding, DNA computers, and wearable computers that act as a virtual assistant who helps us on a second-by-second basis.

First Evidence For Entanglement of Three Macroscopic Objects

March 4, 2005

First evidence for entanglement of three macroscopic objects has been seen in a superconducting circuit built at the University of Maryland.

By examining an electrical circuit operating at temperatures near absolute zero, the researchers have found new evidence that the laws of quantum mechanics apply not just to microscopic particles such as atoms and electrons, but also to large electronic devices called superconducting quantum bits (qubits).

Superconducting circuits… read more

Brain reconstruction hints at ‘hobbit’ intelligence

March 4, 2005

Analysis of the diminutive cranium of Homo floresiensis – a one-meter-tall hobbit-like human that lived in Indonesia just 13,000 years ago – confirms it as a unique species and that it has advanced morphological features, including ones associated with complex brain processes in living humans.

Penrose: The Answer’s Not 42

March 3, 2005

Roger Penrose’s newly published The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe is a rigorous and exhaustive map to the “theory of nearly everything.”

Among his controversial ideas: Penrose proposes that the missing link between macroscopic and submicroscopic is gravity. Aggregations of particles exist in their blurry quantum mechanical states until so many particles are both here and there that space-time itself — which… read more

Barrett: No end in sight for Moore’s Law

March 2, 2005

Moore’s Law will boost chip abilities for many years to come, Intel CEO Craig Barrett predicted on Tuesday.

Barrett predicted that traditional chipmaking technology will permit features as small as 5 nanometers–about the width of 50 hydrogen atoms–to be used on processors.

He mentioned three options for replacing conventional CMOS technology: quantum dot, polymer layer, and nanotubes.

Powerful quantum computer made with superconducting ‘artificial atoms’ is possible

March 2, 2005
Optical micrograph showing an "artificial atom" made with a superconducting circuit. The red arrow points to the heart of the qubit -- the Josephson junction device that might be used in a future quantum computer to represent a 1, 0, or both values at once.

Two superconducting devices have been coaxed into a special, interdependent state that mimics the unusual interactions sometimes seen in pairs of atoms, an important step toward the possible use of “artificial atoms” made with superconducting materials for storing and processing data in an ultra-powerful quantum computer of the future.

Research using real atoms as qubits has advanced rapidly, but superconducting circuits offer the advantage of being easily… read more

‘DNA wires’ promise future self-assembling computer devices

March 2, 2005

“DNA wires” may lead to low-cost, self-assembling devices for future computers.

Purdue University researchers brought together magnetic nanoparticles and DNA in solution, causing the DNA to be coated with the magnetic nanoparticles and forming a conductive “DNA wire.” They then used a BamH1 “restriction enzyme” to cause the DNA wire to be snipped in specific smaller lengths.

Because hundreds of different restriction enzymes snip segments containing specific sequences… read more

Engineers devise invisibility shield

March 1, 2005

A “plasmonic cover” could theoretically render objects “nearly invisible to an observer,” say University of Pennsylvania engineers.

A plasmonic screen suppresses scattering by resonating in tune with the illuminating light. Plasmons are waves of electron density, caused when the electrons on the surface of a metallic material move in rhythm. The researchers say that a shell of plasmonic material will scatter light negligibly if the light’s frequency is close… read more

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